The Kids Are Not Alright

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It cannot be said often enough. North American kids are not alright. Everyone knows this, parents and teachers especially. Over the last decade, teens and young adults have grown significantly more depressed, anxious, stressed—and more suicidal, which ought to shock adults who remember the suicidality crisis of the 1990s. Anxiety has now overtaken depression as the worst mental-health issue afflicting teens and young adults. Some of the factors influencing the psychological well-being of young people are confined to the private realm, and arise out of family dislocation, personal tragedy and clinically diagnosed personality disorders. But many—many—of the sources of young people's anxiety are social, and thus amenable to amelioration. It would seem that we can do little to wean the kids off distracting and debilitating social media, since we appear to be addicted ourselves. There is, however, no excuse for our having turned our classrooms into sites of anxiety for students rather than refuges, or for our reckless promulgation of hysterical "civilization-ending" narratives on subjects ranging from climate change and nuclear weapons to Donald Trump and the terror threat. It is well within the power of adults to put our common social and political challenges into perspective, or at least to acknowledge that the crisis atmosphere we seem to thrive in is ravaging our kids.